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Hands On: Star Trek Online

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As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of the weekend at the MCM Expo. I eventually managed to tear myself away from my table and go looking for electro-entertainment. Alas, mainly console – or console versions of PC games we’ve already covered like Borderlands. And Assassin’s Creed 2, which I would have looked at, but I was scared away by the Marge Simpson cosplayer who looks as if they’d peeled Marge and was wearing her yellow skin as a skin-suit ala Silence Of the Lamb’s Buffalo Bill. However, Star Trek Online was there, and I spent some time getting familiar with what Cryptic have been up to…

This is, of course, a con demo, and they’ve deliberately kept it short, concentrated and sweet. It’s basically a short guided tour around three main parts of the game, before going for and end which was such a clever and Star-Trek-y note that made me have a lot more interest in where they’re going with it. Because, as everyone has said, Star Trek… well, it’s a tricky one to actually pull off. Walking a line between classic-trek fiction and the new movie semi-reboot – which I loved – it does kind of leave you wondering how it’s going to both work as a game and feel convincing and… well, side-step the communal RPS trad-MMO fatigue.

The three stages highlight the various forms of combat. After getting used to flying around with your ship a little, you warp into battle with three Klingon Birds of Prey. Are they Birds of Prey? I dunno, but that’s the only Klingon ship I know, so that’s all you’re getting. The ships move at the sort of pace you expect, with the combat based around circling and trying to line up banks of phasers. The vessel has a forward and backward arc – which means that in terms of actually hammering the opposition, the sweetest spot to place is in that broadside position where both banks can hammer ’em. The twist is the photon-torpedoes, which can only fire directly to the front in a relatively narrow arc. The three ships go down swiftly, so I don’t get a chance to really explore it, but it’s certainly a non-traditional sort of combat for an MMO.

However, when we beam down on a mission, things are a little more familiar. Champions veterans will find things like the analogue controls on some power familiar – holding down longer to seem to maybe get more of an effect (Though the other power seems to go down, which may be some manner of sniping thing. I honestly couldn’t tell on the show floor). Also, a but rifle-butt attack to send people flying away from you. There’s two sections shown, one aboard a ship and the other down on a proper Star-Trekian quarry, where you get to biff a load of Klingons. So this is all somewhat familiar – but the twist is that you’re not alone. In a Guilds War fashion, you’ve got an away team who beam down with you, and you can seemingly give orders to. I say seemingly, because I was too busy blasting people.

So, promising if not spectacular stuff in the snippet – but then you get to the close. There’s some manner of hyperdimensional mysterious floating-portal guardian which you’ve fought your way to – and it’s a Star-Trek-esque enigmatic device. He talks that the Klingons have pretty much taken over this timeline – and the way out is to reset the timeline. When you do that… well, we’re back to the start of the demo. And it’s both a cute little way to reset the demo for the next person, but also about as Star Trek as it gets. That Cryptic are doing things like that even for little demos implies they want to actually engage with the idea of Star Trek in a more meaningful way than just having space-ships that look like a big plastic plate attached to a couple of washing-up-liquid containers.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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